Cat Pictures, Please by Naomi Kritzer

cw_100_350Published: January, 2015 in Clarkesworld (you can read it for free at the link provided)

Genre: science fiction short story

Setting: on Earth, near future

Interest: It recently won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story

Summary: The narrator is a AI who grew out of a search engine algorithm. She’s very aware that if she were to reveal herself to humanity, she’d probably be destroyed. But, she doesn’t want to just sit back and enjoy all our cat pictures (although those are lovely, please keep taking them). Instead, she wants to help people. She knows all kinds of information that would help people, if they would just listen to her suggestions. She has uneven success with helping people, but it’s just enough to get her to try more.

Final thoughts: A fun little story, and an interesting thought experiment on how an AI who only exists online could help a person. It was also a reminder of how many harmful actions people take, even knowing they aren’t the best choice. It’s so hard to do the right think all the time, although getting online prompts can help you do what you need to and not just what you want to. Wouldn’t it be great to have a computer find you that perfect job or the perfect house, though? That would save a lot of hassle. You know they’re out there, it’s just finding it that’s hard.

Awards won: the 2016 Nebula Short Story Award and the 2016 Hugo Short Story Award

Title comes from: The AI’s favorite part of the internet was all the cat pictures. In fact, when she started a dating company, she wanted to be paid in cat pictures. But what happens if you don’t like cats (like my husband?) Would we get a new form of racism against dog people?


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Learning to Watercolor

I thought we’d spend the last two weeks of summer slowly ramping up our homeschooling. That meant I needed a topic we could cover in a few short weeks. I settled on doing some art, and saw a new how-to watercolor book sitting out front at the library and had our topic.

The book I found was simply called Watercolors (Paint It) by Mari Bolte. The book covers a surprising amount of information in 31 pages, and is meant for kids. It starts with basic information about watercolors and the materials you need to create watercolor paintings. The book provides a few specific projects that you can copy using a variety of techniques to create the images. It’s a nice place to start if you don’t know anything about using watercolors. I want to check out her other books as well, Acrylics (Paint It), and Pastels (Paint It).

The other basic book I found was Watercolor 101: Techniques for the Absolute Beginner by Jeanette Robertson. Again, the book starts with materials and basic techniques for putting paint on paper. There are several projects to copy with details on what makes a good painting vs. a boring painting.

Miss Adventure had fun with books, although we’ve discovered we need better paints. Mr. Curiosity has a hard time getting watercolors to produce his mental image, so he’s decided watercolors are not for him. That’s why we’ll have to try the acrylics or pastels book soon.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Published: 2016

Genre: science nonfiction memoir

Length: 290 pages

Font: Iowan Old Style

Setting: various locations, mostly in the U.S., about the 1980s to the present

Interest: It’s a science memoir. I was interested as soon as I saw the book in The Modern Mrs. Darcy’s summer reading list and at my library. Continue reading

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Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Published: 1874

Genre: fiction

Length: 431 pages of text, 468 pages with footnotes

Setting: Wessex, England, 1870s

Font: Janson

Interest: It was one of the BBC’s Big Reads Continue reading

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Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

Published: 2003

Genre: epic fantasy

Length: 702 pages

Setting: from the world’s equivalent of Europe to the Middle East to Africa, 10 years after Kushiel’s Chosen

Interest: It’s the third Terra D’Ange book Continue reading

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Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang


Translated by Ken Liu

Published: January/February 2015 in Uncanny (you can read it free at the link provided)

Genre: science fiction

Length: novelette (I only read it online)

Setting: Beijing, some time in the future

Interest: It won the 2016 Hugo award for best novelette. Since it was easily read online, I decided to read and review this story instead of my usual short fiction. Continue reading

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Dragon Girl: The Secret Valley by Jeff Weigel

Published: 2014

Genre: fantasy graphic novel

Length: 190 pages

Setting: a medieval-style world with dragons

Interest: I saw it at the library and picked it up for Miss Adventure. She likes dragons and we always enjoy graphic novels. It seemed like a perfect fit Continue reading

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